American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories

American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories

American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories

American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories


During World War II, thousands of American servicemen were taken prisoner by the Axis powers. They were beaten and tortured; over half never reached home again. Of those who did, many never fully recovered from what they saw, what they lived through, and the feelings that so racked their lives. Almost all have or had a drinking problem. Some suffer such consistently extreme flashbacks that they are forced to use sleeping medication just to help them make it through the night. The ten interviews included in this work were chosen from dozens of contacted POW accounts. Theirs are stories of hardship, pain, survival, and, at times, enlightenment. From the introduction to Mario Garbin's interview: "Mario was one of the more fortunate POWs who put to use in his later life what he learned from his incarceration. At present, he is retired from over twenty years' service with the Chrysler Corporation, where he was a high-ranking vice president within the company, reporting directly only to the chairman ofthe board.,Although powerful and charismatic, he still cried uncontrollably during one portion of the interview". Hidden in the tales of these men is a message we can all relate to, making this book a read not only for the ex-POW or World War II history buff, but for any reader who cares about the purest meaning of life.


I chose to write this book on the experience of the World War II American prisoners of war for several reasons. First, I felt that their tales had never been fully documented before. Second, I chose this topic because these men were also the first POWs in the automated age of war, which made the severity of the conditions that they were asked to endure so much more extreme, confusing, and penetrating. Not only were their captors totally unprepared for their numbers, but we, as a country and as a people, were inadequately equipped as well to deal with them when they were liberated and after they returned home. Thus the World War II POWs were never recognized for the unique consequences of their captivity until 35 years after their release.

Last, I chose this subject because I felt that within the stories of these men's trials there is a message for us all. I felt that their tales of incarceration and survival were dramatic reflections of what the average human being, whether recognized or not, deals with on an everyday basis. For as former POW Tom Grove says, "We are all incarcerated in one way or another." How we deal with that incarceration and its results determines what type of life we will lead. That point is more fully dealt with in Dr. Charles Stenger's papers and interview that follow.

The men whose stories are chronicled in this book were chosen for the candor and depth with which they convey their tales. In an effort to retain as much of their heartfelt recollections as possible, editing of their interviews was held to a minimum.

I hope that readers will receive as much from this book as I did from writing it.

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